2020 was definitely a year that people will remember for a long time, but not because it was so good. Unfortunately, the COVID-19 pandemic has turned things upside down: no travels, no big parties, and possibly no fireworks in Hungary. In order for 2021 to be less bumpy than the old year, in this article, we have collected Hungarian superstitions for you to try out; maybe they will make the new year a bit better for you all.
Hungarians call New Year’s Eve Szilveszter. It was named after Pope St. Sylvester who died in Rome on the 31st of December. The date only became significant in 1691, however. For Hungarians before that, the beginning of the New Year was most probably around autumn or spring as the change of seasons also marked the end or beginning of agricultural activities. This might also be a reason why it is such a superstitious holiday.
As Hungarians love to eat, you might have guessed we have some superstitions concerning our food, and you were right. Hungarians like to eat lentil stew or soup this time of the year as it is believed to bring great fortune and luck in the new year. According to some superstitions, people cook one single almond into the stew or soup, and if the person who finds it is single, they will marry in the new year.
As with many Hungarian holidays, love prediction is also prevalent on New Year’s Eve. In some households, girls boil dumplings with little notes with names on them after midnight, and whichever comes up first will be their husband. Back in the old days, Hungarians poured lead as a form of predicting events of the new year. Whatever one would see in the strange shape as the lead cooled down after pouring would be their prediction. If it was a face-like shape with a huge nose, then their lovers would have a huge nose, and so on.
Hungarians also like to eat pork this time of year as it is believed that the pig dug up good luck; if you think about it, trained pigs can find truffles, so they can literally dig up a fortune for you. Because of this, pig slaughtering is common around this time of the year as a Hungarian tradition, but modern customs are a bit milder and nowadays, many Hungarians eat pork sausages of many different kinds.
There are a few exceptions of what not to eat on New Year’s Eve. Hungarians believed that eating chicken will mean that the animal scratches away people’s luck. Also, if you eat fish, it will slip out of your hands and swim away with your luck for the new year. Eating turkey is also bad as, according to the superstition, it will bring many quarrels and arguments in the new year as turkeys are hot-headed and bad-tempered.
People who are working in business should eat a lot of fruit on December 31 as it will make their business fruitful in the following year. Making strudels is also recommended as it is said that, just like the dough, your life will be stretched out so you will live longer. Cutting fresh bread is also a good omen as it means that you will be able to provide your everyday bread in the following year, but beware, if you eat everything on New Year’s Eve, it means that you will be lacking in the new year. Also literally, as the 1st of January is a national holiday, and everything is closed in Hungary.
There are a couple of things you can do, apart from eating, or rather should not do on New Year’s Eve that could bring about a better 2021. If you are the person that does not like to do household chores, then it is your lucky day, as Hungarian superstitions provide you with an excuse this day. You should not wash nor hang or dry your clothes as doing laundry is believed to wash away your luck. Taking out the trash on the first day of the New Year has a similar effect, so be sure not to throw your luck away.
You should not give or loan any money for anyone on this day, at least if you would like to get it back in the following year. Also, do not take anything out of your house or give anyone anything from your house as you can end up having huge expenses the following year. Bathing or showering with cold water on January 1 is recommended: belief holds that people who do that will be healthy all year. If you are a woman and want to marry the next year, it will happen if the first person to wish you good luck is a single man. If he is married, however, you might end up being his lover. There is one more belief about love. If couples smear some honey onto their lips before kissing at midnight, their love will be sweet and last long.
Although fireworks might not be possible this Szilveszter, making noise is an important superstition. Before all the fancy pyrotechnics, people used all sorts of noise-making tools like clappers, kereplő, which is a ratchet-like loud “instrument”, or really anything that can make noise. This comes from old Hungarian beliefs, according to which loud noises scare away bad spirits – similar to the roots of costumes during Halloween –, so if you manage to make enough noise, bad spirits will flee, and you will get rid of bad health and bad luck. Partying is good (maybe not in 2020), but you need to have time for a good sleep as whatever you dream on New Year’s Eve will come true. If you partied too hard, these Hungarian cures will help your hangover.
The most important thing is that you spend this day with your families. Unfortunately, due to the side effects of the pandemic, travel between countries is difficult and can even be dangerous. If you are healthy and able, maybe you can meet your loved ones, but if that is not possible, give them a phone call, or video call them. They will appreciate it, and it will certainly help them cope with the hardships of this current situation.
Source: Daily News Hungary, Monor.imami.hu, Kerekítő.hu, Szilveszter.hu